War aims, like a cat held up by the tail, have a way of clawing back at those who propose them. One of the eight points propounded by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at their conference in the Atlantic provides for the unilateral disarmament of the aggressor nations. That provision has sharpened the claws of Naziism, since it has helped to unite behind the Hitler government all those who dislike the cynical brutality and aggression of their regime and are reluctant to concede that National Socialism is the only alternative to complete defeat and prostration.
Carried to an abhorrent extreme, the revenge peace would mean the complete "liquidation" of the German state, as Dr. Earnest A. Hooton advocated in a speech at the University of Michigan last Friday. Such reckless statements are welcome to Dr. Goebbels, who undoubtedly considers them the best possible propaganda for uniting the Germans in a fight to the death. Hitler has stated that defeat would mean the utter destruction of the German state; point eight, far from flatly denying that charge, hints that Hitler was right. Wilson's promise of fair and equal treatment morally disarmed the Kaiser and hastened his overthrow; if the United States would speed the destruction of Naziism it must give specific assurance to the German people that revenge and oppression will not follow disarmament.
The conspicuous absence of a fair treatment clause in the war aims will not only prolong the war but endanger the peace as well. Most Germans seem to have acquiesced in the policy of wholesale aggression, and few of the conquered peoples of Europe would feel any compunction about spooning the aggressors full of the same bitter medicine Hitler is prescribing today. Yet in the long run, Americans have no interest in a policy of revenge. The eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-tooth principle of justice will add explosive to a future European powder-keg, and our only permanent interest in Europe is peace. The one nation distant enough and strong enough to enforce a just peace is the United States, and we have committed ourselves to a program the practical result of which is domination and whose eventual outcome may be yet another war.
Women and war aims must be understood before they can be handled. Discussion of the eight points, their virtues and their short-comings, has been discouragingly paltry. Britain's attitude that discussion of practical post-war problems will lead to disunion among those fighting the common enemy is justified. Proposals for a future boundary between Czechoslovakia and Poland, for instance, would only result in setting the London governments of those countries at one anothers' throats. Such an attitude should not obtain in America, far removed from the petty quarrels of the small nations of Europe. Twenty-three years ago tomorrow Americans celebrated Armistice Day as the end of a great victory. For Americans today November 11, 1918 represents the beginning of a great defeat--one that must not be repeated.